April 21, 2021

Personalization vs. Privacy

Technology can be an amazing thing.  The sheer amount of things that you can do, both online and in physical life, is amazing.  It was only a few years ago that you had to see a teller in order to get cash processed at the bank, you had to use a phone book to look up a phone number, and the list continues.

However, with the advent of all this technology and with the rate of increase of our interconnected lives, there is more data out there to be had easily by machines that can track down the most simple things and record it permanently.

Take, for instance, MyBlogLog.  This website lets you put a script on your site that does some statistics keeping but the main benefit (that I can see) is the ability to see who has come to your site– even if they chose not to leave a comment.  This is a trade-off of privacy for the fact that you can leave your mark on a site without commenting, and maybe the site owner will come back to see your site.  Should you find yourself on a site that you did not wish to be at, or do not want to leave a record of your visit, you can delete your mark.  Same thing with whether you want to leave the record of someone who visited your site.

However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  You see, we all know that many more people visit our sites than comment, can be seen as a MyBlogLog icon or have any form of identity about them.  We may not know about them, but our increasingly interconnected web does.

Do you have a Google account?  I find that many times when I visit blogger sites, I have to make sure that when I comment I choose not to use my real name and link, but change it to my pseudonym with a link to this site.  It knows my name.

Do you have an Amazon account?  Ever notice that certain sites have a badge that lets you donate money and refers to you by first name?

How about those sites that let you peek behind the curtain and see that computers know your general location, your speed with accessing the web, what operating system you are running, etc?

I’m not trying to scare you, but this next generation of computing is going to be much more information based– information that they are collecting each time you go online.  Google says as much:

Google’s ambition to maximise the personal information it holds on users is so great that the search engine envisages a day when it can tell people what jobs to take and how they might spend their days off.

Think about how many tools that you use that are Google’s…  GMail, Widgets, Desktop Search,  AdSense,  Analytics,  Docs… the list goes on.  You have to know that the ads you see in your e-mail come from AdSense that read your e-mail looking for keywords to choose the ads that it showed you.

I’m not saying that there are people that are reading everything you do– but that a computer is and that the information is there.  At some point we each have to come to realization that we are trading Privacy for Personalization– and make sure we’re ok with that.

(Visited 10 times, 1 visits today)

6 thoughts on “Personalization vs. Privacy

  1. I have experienced this…I’ll be visiting a new blog and in their sidebar blinking back at me is my current small town and state! Scary thing when you’re trying for anonymity. However, I recently decided not to hide my whole name from the public anymore. It’s a very common (boring) name anyway…I’ll still keep my location and family’s names protected as long as possible.

    Mary L. Allen–in case anyone was wondering! (See, told you, pretty plain jane)

  2. I still hold a bit of anonymity, the only you know about me is what I said on my blog. My first name only, Date of birth and that I live in the States.

    After that huge fiasco fighting with a group of homosexuals, I became concerned for my children and changed their names and took out any link to them.

    I do love Google, it is the best search engine, however, I still have my yahoo account as well.

  3. What gets me, is that we are not really getting personalization. You see, we are missing that “person” part. Instead of receiving private and personal attention as it “used to be” when we actually met with the grocer and the tellers, we now get randomized and categorized “personalization”. To be honest, I don’t think a computer can ever know me or my actions well enough to give me good advice about what job to take or where to spend my vacation. It is really de-personalizing me, if you think about it. It is saying “Mrs. Meg Logan fits into box ‘A’ or box ‘A56′” depending on how many “boxes” there are out there.

    I think I’ll stick to listening to the Lord on the matters concerning my life. Perhaps one day I will “disappear” from the internet. If I’m not there, they can’t trace my actions.

    Mrs. Meg Logan

  4. This is slightly related: I had a friend contact me about the – I forget what they’re called, the ones that select the ads based on the readers history and whatever your site is about – Amazon ad I had on my site for a book she thought I would find offensive. Somehow “the system” had connected her to this book.


  5. If you really want to be anonymous I suggest you do not use google. They are well known for their 50 year cookie. With it they uniquely identify you throughout the internet.

    The websites that tell you your location do this via IP address. Its referred to a GEO-IP. Your IP address is provided to you by the company you get your internet access through. Its basically like a phone number for you computer so the internet knows where to send the data back to when you surf to a website.

    Most companies have different IP address ranges for each one of their offices in a given area. A central database of the locations of these offices and what IP address ranges that are associated with them have been put together. E.G. The Timewarner RoadRunner Office in Nowhere, NV might have the IP addresses . As a result if your IP address was they would know you live somewhere in the vicinity of Nowhere, NV. The more “offices” they have with defined ranges in a specific metropolitian area the more precise they can determine your location.

    E.G. I live in a small town outside a medium sized city. The Geo-IP websites usually identify me as being part of the medium sized city since my local Timewarner office is in that city and they range of IP addresses they use is for the whole central area. In comparison, if you lived in New York, NY there are so many “offices” that GEO-IP could probably tell you pretty specifically where you lived (the bronx etc).

    If you really don’t want someone to know where you are coming from there are several ways to do this. The best way is to go through a proxy server. A proxy server basically serves as an intermediary between you and the internet. You tell the proxy server you want a website, the proxy server retrieves the website and gives it to you. there are a number of free and paid proxy services offering different levels of service.

    The second way is to get your internet access via a service that does not assign IP address by region. Satellite internet providers usually have a range of IP addresses for all their subscribers on a specific Satelite, regardless of where the people are. As a result a GEO-IP program will not know where a Satelite subscriber is. AOL has also been known to often re-use IP ranges throughout the country instead of having them locked to a specific region (most typically on their dial-up services). As a result the GEO-IP address could identify where you came from incorrectly, or not at all.

    It is likely going to get more difficult to be anonymous on the internet, however. With the E911 issues associated with Voice-Over-IP many analysts have suggested that the best way to tackle the issue would be to require your internet provider to provide a precise address associated with each IP address they give out that could be queried in case of a 911 emergency. Presently VoIP companies have implemented E911 in a different manor then described… but honestly linking IP’s to addresses is a much more logical approach and a likely progression in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge